AS THE final scoreline indicates, this was all oneway traffic as Kilkenny champions, Thomastown, cruised to an easy 17-point victory over a disappointing Naomh Eanna outfit in this AIB Leinster Junior hurling championship semi-final at Gorey on Sunday last.
THOMASTOWN (KILKENNY) 1-24 NAOMH EANNA 0-10
Leaving aside the opening ten minutes, at the end of which Thomastown led by 0-4 to 0-2, the Wexford Intermediate 'A' champions were completely outplayed as the visitors' dominance increased as the game progressed, leaving the result inevitable from a very early stage.
The manner in which Naomh Eanna succumbed to the challenge opened the eyes of home supporters as they were playing a side that had just emerged from the Kilkenny Junior title race. But the step up made little difference to Thomastown, as they were far and away the more skilful side, being quicker to the ball and with excellent striking, while their point-taking was so clinical that they put over efforts from a variety of angles.
Naomh Eanna after their recent fine form must have fancied their chances going into this game, particularly with home advantage. But apart from that opening ten-minute spell they were completely outclassed, and such was the outfield dominance of the visitors that the home attack saw very little of the ball.
After John Jo Farrell had extended the Thomastown lead, the Wexford champions in a brief flurry of attacks managed to get back level through points from Justin Kenny (free) and Pádraig Doyle. However, that was as good as it got for the home side, although they should have had a goal in the fifth minute when Conor McDonald picked out David O'Brien with a great crossfield ball.
The corner-forward's shot from ten metres was saved by 'keeper Dylan Walsh, but really he should have finished to the net with this clearcut opportunity.
The Thomastown response to those opening Naomh Eanna attacks was immediate, as they bounced back with points from a Michael Donnelly free and Darren Burke to lead by 0-4 to 0-2 after ten minutes.
With centre-back Peter O'Hanrahan dominant in defence, and Dessie Walsh and Derek Lanigan on top in midfield, the attack, particularly Michael Donnelly, Darren Burke and John Jo Farrell, continued to pick off points at will
This left them very much in control as they led by 0-18 to 0-3 at the interval, with the solitary Naomh Eanna response to this spell of dominance being a Justin Kenny pointed free after 21 minutes.
On the resumption Naomh Eanna had nothing but pride to play for, but they even found that difficult as the Kilkenny side continued to control proceedings. This dominance was to remain right through the second period despite the fact that they used their full bench, but it did nothing to blot their attacking play. In truth, their winning margin could have been far greater had they put away a couple of further goal opportunities.
It turned out to be as one-sided through the second 30 minutes. Thomastown had the game put out of sight when Stuart Waugh goaled in the 38th minute, leaving them with a 1-21 to 0-4 lead.
Although Justin Kenny managed a string of pointed frees for the home side, there was never any doubting the dominance of a Thomastown team which won this game without really exerting themselves, particularly in the second period, and they will be hot favourites to see off Rathmolyon of Meath in the decider.
Dylan Walsh; Seán Mahoney, Shane Lanigan, Brian Murphy; Barry Whelan, Peter O'Hanrahan, Richard O'Hara; Dessie Walsh, Derek Lanigan (0-1); Dylan Waugh, Michael Donnelly (0-8, 3 frees), Darren Burke (0-5); Thomas O'Hanrahan (0-1), John Jo Farrell (0-5), Stuart Waugh (1-3, 0-1 free). SUBS: Gary Lehane for D. Waugh, Robert O'Hanrahan for O'Hara, Pádraig Caulfield for T. O'Hanrahan, David Prendergast for Donnelly, James Hoyne (0-1) for Whelan.
Barry Kinsella; Peter Travers, Brendan Travers, Eoin Conroy; John O'Brien, Darren Kelly, Lee Kinsella; Justin Kenny (0-6, 5 frees), Tom Stafford; Willie Cullen (0-1), Michael Murphy, Conor Hughes (0-2, 1 free); Pádraig Doyle (0-1), Conor McDonald, David O'Brien. SUBS: Jamie Cullen for Stafford, Seán Doyle for O'Brien, Niall Kirwan for Murphy, John Stafford for O'Brien. VENUE: Páirc Uí Síocháin, Gorey.
REFEREE: Pat Murphy (Carlow).